The phrase “come and take them” is a popular slogan today among American second amendment activists. In a way, the slogan is a reminder of how much American citizens value their right to bear arms. In modern American culture, the slogan is not so much a warning or battle cry as it is a symbol of patriotism. It serves to remind the citizens how lucky they are to live in a country where freedom, independence, and choice are still something meaningful and valuable.
Many Americans support this slogan by proudly displaying Molon Labe flags. There is also a wide variety of Molon Labe jewelry that people wear to display their respect for the second amendment. Furthermore, Molon Labe is a popular military slogan used by The United States’ Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) as a motto, and the Greek First Army Corps as an emblem.
“Come and take them,” however, is a modern translation of the Ancient Greek phrase Molon Labe, pronounced: mo-lone lah-veh. The ancient Greek language didn’t link verbs with conjunctions: “and,” “as,” “but,” or “for.” So, Molon Labe would be literally translated as “come take,” or “coming, take” rather than come and take as we now recognize it.
During the Greek era, the subject or noun in the phrase was omitted. To the Greeks, the subject “them,” being weapons, or “it,” perhaps meaning freedom, would be inferred by way of the context in which it was used, rather than directly stating the object in question.
For example, if a citizen of ancient Greece held a sword, and another citizen approached him aggressively demanding that sword, the sword bearer would simply say “come take,” because the subject, the sword, is implicitly implied in the context of the situation.
Although just two words to the ancient Greeks, “come” and “take” in the context of battle for an honorable cause made Molon Labe an inspirational phrase that endured the passing of time. The phrase, Molon Labe, originated from the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Leonidas of Sparta exclaimed this phrase to the Persian King Xerxes, after Xerxes insisted the Spartans surrender their weapons.
While the approximately 300 Spartans fought valiantly in the battle of Thermopylae, they did not defeat the Persian army of nearly 600,000 soldiers (the most powerful army in the world at the time). However, the Spartans’ courageous efforts during that battle gave the citizens of Greece the time they needed to flee before the Persian army arrived. Soon after, the invigorated morale of the Greek army annihilated the Persians twice: once during the Battle of Salamis and, again, during the Battle of Plataea.
Molon Labe made a lasting mark on American culture in the early 1800s. The phrase “come and take it” was inscribed on a flag in Texas, known as the Gonzales Flag, during a war that ensued between Texan colonists and the Mexican government. However, the slogan “come and take it” used during the Texas revolution did not have the same meaning as it did to the ancient Greek Spartans or contemporary American citizens.
Rather, the “it” in “come and take it” referred to a cannon that was given to Texas from Mexico. The purpose of the gift was to help the citizens of Texas defend against Native American assaults. When the Mexican government tried to reclaim the gift a couple years later, the Texans refused, telling Mexico if they wanted it, “come and take it.” A flag with a single star, a cannon, and the phrase “come and take it” flew above Fort Gonzales to solidify the claim.
The slogan Molon Labe still holds significance for American citizens today. Since the 1990s, the slogan has made its presence known around the internet in the form of patriotic flags, jewelry, clothing, bottle openers, and much more. Many American patriots show their American pride by getting Molon Labe tattoos. It has even surfaced on sports memorabilia.
Now, the use of the phrase over the centuries is somewhat subjective. It’s unlikely that a sports team that wears the slogan “Molon Labe” on their helmet straps has the same intentions as Leonidas and the Spartans in 480 B.C. It is also unclear whether the Texan colonists knew anything about the original slogan from Greek antiquity, or if it’s simply coincidence how well the Gonzales flag mirrors the original Greek slogan.
Yet, however subjective, one thing is clear. Those two small words hold a significant amount of meaning to the people who adopt them. They can invigorate the morale of soldiers, patriots, and even athletes.
Also, they are a symbol of independence, freedom, and choice. Finally, they serve as a warning to any opposing force that challenges our beliefs or determination that we will prevail with integrity, honor, and virtue.